Sometimes even the best intentions go to waste, and Monkey Hero is an unfortunate testament to this. Intended as a Japanese-style action/RPG in the old-school vein of Zelda, Monkey Hero is just about as ill conceived and poorly done as one can imagine, and it's only made more lamentable by its purported homage to the classics.
Loosely based on Chinese lore, Monkey Hero follows the mythic exploits of one "Monkey" and his quest to return balance to the dream world, waking world and nightmare world and defeat the uniform-clad Nightmare King. To do so, Monkey must travel across the world to retrieve the eight chapters of a magic story book. Monkey Hero's gameplay is, unfortunately, below the generic level of the game's story. Inspired by the Zelda series and games of its ilk, Monkey Hero takes a broad stab at the action/adventure genre and provides Monkey with all the requisite tools, heart-container-equivalents and the like to complete his quest. Complete with a bird's-eye view of the "action," Monkey hero is Blam!'s attempt to implement every classically tested variable of the action/adventure formula.
However, that formula has yet to produce so painful a game. Monkey Hero's gameplay is often bad, occasionally mediocre, and thoroughly boring throughout. To start, one could make a case that the game's world is too big. This is a problem only because the game makes very little attempt to provide you with direction; often you are left to wander around, either looking for the next item or the next obstacle to remove. There has to be a better way than this to move away from the traditional linearity of the action/adventure genre. There's nothing like getting a new item and looking for one place to use it, only to find five, most of which are dead ends. Monkey Hero is a fairly long game, and it's full of these design inadequacies. Should you manage to progress, you'll find the game's dungeons to be lacking. Between the bland layout and the sparse, uninventive use of puzzles, Monkey Hero's dungeons are more exercises in tedium than actual gameplay. Some of the bosses are worthwhile, but they are short-lived, and seem like token reasons to use the game's myriad items instead of actual challenges. Additionally, control and collision issues seem to plague the game, adding additional frustration to the poor design.
Alas, Monkey Hero's problems don't end there. Aesthetically, the game is a mess: It looks like a shareware throwback to the first generation of PlayStation games. The game's tile-heavy graphics are reminiscent of Interplay's abysmal Loaded, unfortunately borrowing that game's lighting extremes, as well. Areas are often inexplicably dark, but often have near-invisible enemies lurking in them, generally resulting in cheap hits. The game's terrain is flat and uninteresting, and all the art is decidedly blocky. Monkey Hero anachronistically relies on sprites for enemies, and they're not pretty, either. In addition to being small and of basic geometry, their animation is unforgivably poor, rarely more than a few frames. Despite the game's extremely basic 3D graphics, the frame rate is decidedly poor on the whole, slowing down at the most inopportune and inexplicable times.
Coupled with the poor animation is an extremely poor use of sound. When you use the hammer item, there's no earth-shaking thud to accompany the animation. Additionally, most of the game's music is repetitive and used in far too many instances, not to mention that it doesn't really carry the game's professed Asian overtones.
However it happened, Blam!'s pure intentions went chaotically awry, resulting in one of the worst PlayStation games in recent memory. Blam! knows the classics - here's hoping they can mimic them a lot better next time.